Usually by this time in the cycle, there is some buzz about the upcoming election. In a presidential election year most people, by the week before the primary, just want it to be over so that the political commercials, which they know by heart, will stop running every 30 seconds on television.
However, 2018 is not one of those years. This is one of the quietest elections in years. It’s an off year, so there are no national races and the only statewide race is for a Supreme Court justice with no primary.
But we have made our endorsements on all the races on the ballot.
For Republicans, the only countywide race is for sheriff, where Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes is running for his seventh term. In fact, that’s the only race a lot of Republicans will see on their ballots because the other races are for District 59 in the state House, District 2 for the Board of Commissioners and District 4 for the school board.
The Democrats have 10 primaries in all. The big one is for Guilford County district attorney, which is a countywide race, and with no Republican opponent in November, the Democrats get to select the next Guilford County district attorney amongst themselves.
The other countywide races are for Guilford County sheriff and the at-large seat on the school board. But actually, all the Democratic voters in the county get to vote in a congressional race because there are primaries in both the 6th District and the 13th District, and the entire county is in one or the other.
So all Democrats will have the opportunity to vote in at least four races.
The other races on the Democratic ballot are for state House District 58, District 8 for the Board of Commissioners, and three Board of Education races – District 4, District 6 and District 8.
Because it’s a quiet election, that means not many folks will vote. The bad news is that the vote totals will likely be embarrassingly low; the good news is that if you do go vote, your vote has a lot more clout.
NC House – District 59
District 59 state Rep. Jon Hardister is running for his fourth term in the House and he deserves to go back to Raleigh to continue the work he’s been doing. Hardister is currently majority whip, which is the number three leadership position in the House. Guilford County has traditionally punched well below its weight in the state legislature. It’s high time that Guilford County, which is the third largest county in the state, had more clout in the House.
I haven’t agreed with all of Hardister’s votes, but if that is the requirement for sending someone back to Raleigh, no one would ever be reelected.
What is strange is that Hardister is being challenged in the Republican primary by Mark McDaniel, who served two terms in the state Senate from 1991 to 1995. McDaniel has been out of the political picture for a couple of decades but he certainly hasn’t been out of the news.
McDaniel was the business manager of the Southeastern Eye Center and, along with its principal Dr. C. Richard Epes, was involved in various other related companies and businesses. Southeastern Eye Center and related businesses started having serious financial difficulty in 2005 resulting in bankruptcy for some of the companies and a multitude of lawsuits with various creditors. The legal cases were very complex and some matters are still pending.
Ultimately, North Carolina Special Superior Court Judge Louis Bledsoe ordered that a receiver be appointed to administer the assets of 12 companies related to Southeastern Eye Center of which McDaniel, Dr. Epes and Dr. Epes’ wife held ownership interests. This means that a court appointed trustee would handle all of the financial dealings involved in selling assets and paying creditors.
The reason Judge Bledsoe ordered the assets of the companies put into receivership was based on certain transfers of funds and other conduct by McDaniel and Dr. Epes to benefit themselves and their spouses at the expense of creditors of the businesses. According to an opinion by Bledsoe, he found “substantial evidence that the Epeses’ and Mr. McDaniel’s conduct in connection with the operation of CCSEA [Central Carolina Surgical Eye Associates] and SCLC [Southeastern Cataract Laser Center] had been in furtherance of their efforts to defraud, avoid, and hinder creditors.” Bledsoe also notes that the 19 different lawsuits that had been filed in the case had been consolidated by the courts to be handled in his court.
A related lawsuit, one that McDaniel brought up in an interview, was one where McDaniel and Dr. Epes sued District 62 state Rep. John Blust and the law firm where Blust is employed, Ivey, McClellan, Gatton & Siegmund, who were appointed trustees for part of the case. The lawsuit was thrown out of court because someone in bankruptcy can’t sue the trustee without permission from the bankruptcy court. McDaniel, Dr. Epes and their attorney not only lost the case but they were ordered to pay over $320,000 in attorney’s fees and expenses for the trustee. That’s a pretty major loss.
The numerous lawsuits and legal issues also hit the news because the Andrew Wyeth paintings of Bessie Epes were sold to pay the debts of the company. Bessie Epes had millions of dollars worth of Wyeth paintings, which were her personal property, that the receiver took and sold.
This was by no stretch of the imagination a normal bankruptcy.
It would be a huge mistake to send someone who was involved in this kind of financial impropriety to Raleigh.
Plus, the issue that McDaniel has chosen as the key to his campaign is the Republican tax reform. It is the same issue that Republicans all over the state are using as a reason why they should be reelected – because of the economic gains the state has made since the tax reform was implemented. Even Forbes magazine thought it was strange and wrote an article about how the tax reforms by the Republicans in North Carolina were being used as a model for other states on how to accomplish successful tax reform and that the tax burden on North Carolinians had been reduced by $4 billion by the Republican plan.
McDaniel has found one part of that tax reform bill, which cut personal and corporate income tax and raised the standard deduction, that he doesn’t like, and that is the expansion of the sales tax to cover some services.
It is a stated goal of the Republicans to depend more on sales taxes and less on income taxes. McDaniel also says that he has been told by another candidate for the legislature that the plan is to expand sales tax to medical services. However, state legislators from Guilford County agree that isn’t being discussed.
Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes is running for his seventh four-year term as sheriff of North Carolina’s third largest county. An elected official who has been in office for 24 years is bound to have some detractors, and Barnes not only has a Republican primary, but three men are running in the Democratic primary.
One of the big hurdles Barnes has to get over in this election cycle is convincing his supporters to get out and vote.
The voter turnout in the May 8 primary is going to be embarrassingly low and human nature is that people who are voting against someone are more likely to go vote than those voting for someone. And when you’ve won six elections, most people figure you’re going to win again and don’t really need your vote.
Steve Parr, who retired from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department in 2015 as a sergeant, is running against Barnes in the Republican primary. Something Republicans should consider is that in the current political climate Barnes may be the only Republican who can win a countywide race. Democratic At-large Guilford County Commissioner Kay Cashion, who runs countywide, doesn’t have a Republican opponent. In the countywide district attorney’s race, two Democrats are running against each other in the primary and face no Republican opposition in the fall. It’s not that no Republicans want to run for those offices, it’s more that no Republican thinks they can win.
Barnes can win countywide. He’s done it six times.
Parr says he thinks that the Sheriff’s Department needs more officers out on patrol and fewer on special teams. Barnes says a lot of the special teams are funded by grants and if the teams go away so does the grant money. I would think that most people don’t want less enforcement, for example, of the drunk driving laws – just one of the special teams.
Parr says that he wouldn’t get rid of the special teams funded by grants, but he thinks officers are available that could be placed on patrol. He didn’t know where those officers were but he said any organization as large as the Sheriff’s Department had officers who could be reassigned.
He also said that the county needs more detention officers, that the lack of detention officers was dangerous. Barnes has talked about the same thing. It’s not that he doesn’t want more, but that he’s having problems finding qualified people to hire. It’s not simply a problem for the Guilford County jail. The North Carolina prison system is having a similar problem – and it’s not simply detention personnel, it’s a law enforcement problem.
The Greensboro Police Department has not been able to fill its rookie classes sufficiently to make up for the normal turnover by retirement and resignations. The uptick in the economy is one issue; because there are more jobs to choose from, it’s more difficult for law enforcement to recruit. Also, all the bad publicity that law enforcement has had nationwide lately has not helped recruitment.
Parr says that increasing pay would help and he’s right, but the Sheriff’s Department is funded by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, so it’s a matter of squeezing more money out of a conservative Republican board that has pledged to keep spending down.
That seems to be a fairly good example of why I think we should keep Barnes as sheriff. Parr sees problems in the Sheriff’s Department without seeing the larger picture. Parr said that he was sure that with all the colleges and universities in the area more detention guards could be recruited, but it isn’t that simple.
Barnes has certainly had problems in the Sheriff’s Department, but for 24 years the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department has not had the kind of scandals that have wracked other law enforcement agencies.
Barnes is by far the better choice in this race and the best choice in the fall.
County Commissioners ╨ District 2
Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue has been a big part of the reform that the Republican majority has brought to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. He is the retired director of Guilford County Emergency Services and it appears that he is being challenged in the Republican primary because of one action during the past four years – not supporting the High Point stadium project. Perdue was far from alone in not supporting the High Point Stadium project. The motion to support it didn’t get a second, which meant of the nine commissioners it had the support of one.
His opponent, Ashley Tillery, is running a High Point-centric campaign. A lot of folks in High Point are upset that the commissioners didn’t come across with the $11 million requested for the stadium project, but politics is nothing if not political and the entire issue was not handled well from a political standpoint. The request appeared to be more of demand, and if the demand wasn’t met then the punishment would be that the sitting commissioners would face opposition from High Point in the upcoming election.
Being a commissioner is far more than taking action or not taking action on one issue. The Republican majority on the board has reduced taxes and streamlined government. They have also increased funding for the schools.
Perdue has provided a key vote in all of those actions and deserves another term to continue that work.
Board of Education ╨ District 4
Will Marsh is challenging incumbent District 4 Board of Education member Linda Welborn. Marsh is secretary of the Guilford County Republican Party and an active Republican. Welborn is registered Republican.
Marsh, who is 27, runs an insurance and investment firm. He doesn’t have experience in education but makes some good arguments about why he should be elected. One is that the millennial generation, which is now the country’s largest, deserves representation. He says that millennials look at issues differently from older generations and that public education would benefit from a different perspective. It’s a good argument. There is always a lot of talk about the need for diversity, and age diversity is certainly a part of diversity.
A case in point is that Marsh went after me with a pretty harsh post on Facebook. If he had been a baby boomer like me, he probably would have called and given me an ear full over the phone. Instead, the post was out there for everyone to see. In the end, we settled what was a misunderstanding the old fashioned way, with a conversation and a handshake.
Some school board members appear to be more interested in supporting the school board itself and other school board members than education or their constituents. I think Welborn fits in that category.
Marsh would be a good addition to the school board.
US Congress – 6th District
The winner of the 6th District Democratic primary will face Republican 6th District Congressman Mark Walker in November. Walker is in his second term in Congress and has been elected from two different districts. This is the first time Walker will get to run from the district he has been representing.
Walker is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which doesn’t sound like much but has far more power than the name implies.
Two Democrats are vying for the right to face him in the fall. Ryan Watts and Gerald Wong.
Wong is from the far-left-wing of the Democratic Party, which is why I think Ryan is the better candidate. It’s a Republican district and either faces an uphill battle to defeat Walker.
US Congress – 13th District
The 13th District Democratic primary is a true David and Goliath race. Kathy Manning has raised over $1 million and Adam Coker less than $50,000. In most races the candidate with the most money wins, but there are always exceptions.
One problem with sending people to Washington is that they forget the people back home. In this race, I have seen Coker at what seems like every event where more than three people are gathered. I haven’t seen Manning, but she is running television commercials. I’d rather have someone who attended events in person rather than spent their campaign time and money on commercials.
It’s a big district and maybe Manning has been concentrating on events in Mocksville, Statesville, Cooleemee and the like, but I haven’t seen it.
In November, the winner will face Republican first term 13th District Congressman Ted Budd who has no primary. No one can accuse Budd of going to Washington and forgetting about his district. Budd still sleeps in his office when he is in Washington, which means he’s back in the district when Congress isn’t in session.
The Democrats in Guilford County will elect a new Guilford County district attorney on May 8. The official vote will be on Nov. 6, but, with no Republican candidate in the race, the Democratic primary on May 8 is the real race.
Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson, who has been in office since 2005, announced that he is not running for reelection and will be returning to private practice.
Two women with extensive experience in the criminal justice system in Guilford County are running for the seat, which assures that not only will Guilford County have a Democrat as the district attorney, but the county will have its first female district attorney.
Both are excellent candidates and both have extensive experience in the Guilford County district attorney’s office.
Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Reese and former District Court Judge Avery Crump are vying for the job.
No one can doubt Crump’s desire to be the new district attorney because she had to resign from her position as a District Court judge in order to run. Crump said that she worked her last day, cleared her docket, resigned and drove to Raleigh to file to run for district attorney. Judges are required by law to resign before they run for district attorney, but she could have resigned in the morning, driven to Raleigh and taken the rest of the day off.
Reese has been an assistant district attorney for 18 years. She says that she worked in the private sector for a couple of years out of Wake Forest Law School then got a job in the district attorney’s office and found she loved prosecuting cases. She said, “I felt like I could do more good as an assistant district attorney than any other type of law.”
There isn’t a lot of difference between the two. Both want to add more alternative sentencing type courts, like the drug court.
But if Crump didn’t have some issues with the district attorney’s office she wouldn’t be running. One of the complaints that Crump has about the current district attorney’s office is that they continue too many cases for too long. Crump says that she thinks the district attorney’s office could handle cases quicker, but chooses to continue them. She says that in her opinion, if the DA’s office has the evidence they should go ahead and prosecute the case and if they don’t they should dismiss it. Crump said that she thought it was unfair to the defendants and the victims to have them keep coming back to court five or six times before their case is heard. She noted that most of the defendants were hourly employees and every day they had to sit in court they lost a day’s pay and sometimes lost their jobs.
Reese said that there were a lot of different reasons that cases had to be continued. She said, “I’m not saying that the courts can’t be run more efficiently.” But she also noted that is was ultimately up to the judge to make the decision on continuing cases.
Both candidates say they want to be more involved in the community and more visible than Henderson has been. And both say they plan to try cases while district attorney.
An argument can be made that having a former judge as the district attorney would allow the district attorney to see things from a different viewpoint. But in this case Reese has spent 18 years in the district attorney’s office and Crump spent nine as an assistant district attorney and nine as a judge.
I think the additional experience in the district attorney’s office would be more helpful than being a District Court judge for nine years and being out of Superior Court. I also didn’t get the complaint about continuing cases. No doubt cases are continued when they really shouldn’t be, but Crump didn’t seem to have a good solution to solve the problem.
It’s a close call but I think Reese would be a better district attorney.
NC House ╨ District 58
Democratic District 58 North Carolina state House Rep. Amos Quick was a valuable member of the Guilford County school board for 12 years before winning a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2016.
Quick could have been appointed to the serve out the term of Ralph Johnson, who died in office, but chose to finish out his term on the Board of Education, which is a good example of his level of integrity.
In the state House, Quick has won the respect of fellow representatives on both sides of the aisle. The state House has a large Republican majority and politics in Raleigh is extremely partisan, which means for a Democrat to get anything done they have to be able to work with Republicans. Quick does this better than most.
His opponent, Katelyn Flippen, doesn’t have Quick’s experience in working on an elected body and couldn’t hope to be as successful in Raleigh as Quick has been.
Quick deserves another two years in the legislature.
There are three candidates in the Guilford County Democratic primary for Sheriff – Therron Phipps, Danny Rogers and James Zimmerman.
It may be because I think Sheriff BJ Barnes should be elected for another term, but it’s difficult to pick any of these candidates.
Rogers lost to Barnes in 2014 and is hoping for a rematch. Rogers worked for both the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and the High Point Police Department for short tenures in the early 1990s and has been out of law enforcement since. Rogers has 16 criminal charges on his record, most were dismissed but he does have a conviction for worthless check. Whether he left law enforcement on his own or was fired, it is safe to say that he didn’t leave on good terms.
Phipps is a retired Greensboro police captain who filed a lawsuit against the Greensboro Police Department because he wasn’t promoted to deputy police chief. Phipps claimed it was racial because two white men were promoted and he wasn’t. A black man was also promoted to deputy chief while Phipps was vying for the job, which is an indication that the reason my not have been racial.
The Greensboro Police Department only has four deputy police chiefs, which means there are a lot of good officers who retire as captains. Everything isn’t racial.
Then you have James Zimmerman, who is retired from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and is running for sheriff for the fourth time. Zimmerman does have law enforcement experience, but it is as a deputy and for the last 15 years of his career he was on the warrant squad.
It appears that all three have issues that would make it difficult for them to be successful as sheriff, but in this case Zimmerman may be the best of the three.
County Commissioners ╨ District 8
Democratic District 8 Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston has over 20 years experience as a commissioner, including five as chairman. Alston stepped down in 2012 and Ray Trapp won the seat and was reelected in 2016. In 2017, Trapp resigned to accept a job at NC A&T State University and Alston was appointed to serve in his place. Now Alston is running to finish out the two years left in that term.
Alston served most of his time on the Board of Commissioners in the majority party and now finds himself in the minority.
Alston represents his district well. Even though he is representing a Democratic district on a board with a Republican majority, he manages to get a lot accomplished. He’s good at getting some concessions in return for his vote and, as Alston know, in politics you rarely get everything you want, but if you’re willing to compromise you can get some of it.
Alston is being challenged by Fahiym Hanna, who in 2013 was big news in the Greensboro City Council election because he was caught voting twice. Hanna said he was confused and thought he had voted in the primary and the general election. No charges were brought against Hanna – although it is illegal to vote twice in an election – but one of his votes was canceled. So the punishment he received for voting twice was that he was only allowed to vote once like everyone else. Although his voter registration was not challenged it was revealed in the course of the investigation that he was registered to vote from a vacant lot.
The Board of Commissioners doesn’t need a member who is so confused by elections that he votes twice, or for that matter someone who would register to vote from a vacant lot.
Alston is far and away the best choice for Democrats in District 8.
Board of Education ╨ At Large
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Education Alan Duncan has two challengers in the Democratic primary for an at-large Board of Education seat.
Duncan has been chairman of the school board since 2002, so he certainly has to take some responsibility for problems in the school system, but I hate to even imagine what the school board would be like without Duncan at the helm, smoothing things over and keeping people on the same page.
School boards are notoriously difficult organizations to run. Mark Twain said, “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards.” So this is not a recent phenomenon.
The education of over 70,000 children is a daunting task. The fact that Guilford County has someone of the caliber of Duncan who is willing to spend countless hours working on doing it as well as possible is a credit to the community. In his day job, Duncan is a partner at Turning Point Litigation and recognized as one of the top litigators in the state. He has also served as the president of the North Carolina Bar Association and has won a long list of awards for his legal work.
Duncan this week was appointed to the North Carolina Board of Education. For most people serving on both and holding down a full-time job might be too much, and if may be for Duncan, but I doubt it. For the Guilford County Board of Education to have a seat on the state board is a real coup for Guilford County.
It’s a little odd that Duncan has attracted two challengers in his own party for this at-large seat. Keith McInnis has over 20 years experience in public education and it appears he would make a good school board member, but to get him the county would have to give up Duncan who has 16 years as chairman.
Tijuana Hayes ran for an at-large seat on the Greensboro City Council last year and lost in the primary. This year she is running for an at-large seat on the Guilford County Board of Education. Some people just like to run for office.
Board of Education ╨ District 4
In Board of Education District 4, two newcomers are running for the Democratic nomination in what has been a Republican district.
Desiree Best appears to be the better choice over Adrienne Nicole Spinner. Best is a retired teacher with 31 years experience in the classroom.
Spinner is a stay-at-home mom and community advocate.
Best seems a little more conservative in her approach to education while Spinner appears to view the problems in the educational system as racial.
Board of Education ╨ District 6
In the District 6 Guilford County Board of Education Democratic primary, Chris Hocker and Khem Denise Irby are running for the right to run against Republican District 5 Guilford County Board of Education member Wes Cashwell in November.
Hocker, who has been heavily involved in the Autism Society and Autism Unbound, has an interest in the exceptional children programs and is the better choice in this race. As with most school board candidates he places far too much emphasis on school funding, which in North Carolina is not a school board decision, but you’d never know it from listening to the candidates.
Irby is a school employee and a member of the teachers’ union. She served on a school board in New York City, which considering the state of the public schools in that city doesn’t seem like a plus to me. She is also an after-school teacher employed by the schools, a job from which she would have to resign if elected. It seems she would bring complications to the job that aren’t necessary.
Board of Education ╨ District 8
District 8 Guilford County Board of Education member Deena Hayes has competition for the first time since 2002, and she has two candidates running against her in the Democratic primary. Maybe it’s a sign that her district is growing tired of her.
Hayes is being challenged by William (BJ) Levette and Laverne Carter.
Levette appears to have a much more educational view of schools than Hayes, who has always seemed more interested in her day job as managing director of the Racial Equity Institute than in education.
Carter is the former education chair for the NAACP and wrote a long piece last fall asking that District 2 Board of Education member Anita Shape resign and that District 5 Board of Education member Darlene Garrett resign as vice chair over an email Sharpe wrote about School Superintendent Sharon Contreras. Demanding resignations from school board members isn’t a good way to get along with people you hope to serve with on a board.
Levette would offer a new voice on the board and his background in business would prove helpful. Levette is the best choice in this race.